Port Renfrew will be welcoming people back to the area again on June 1, more than two months after the community started to discourage visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 22, residents of Port Renfrew and the Pacheedaht First Nation put up signs asking people to postpone their trips. The area did struggle with unwelcome visitors coming for surfing and camping in April. Some stores were refusing service to anyone who was not local.
Karl Ablack, member of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, and vice president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, says reopening in June will be a “soft” one.
He said the recovery task force, which includes the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, the Pacheedaht First Nation and first responders among others, has worked to create a safe and responsible atmosphere for employees, employers and visitors.
“It means that not everything will be open in accordance with the province and the federal guidelines,” Ablack said.
According to Ablack, the San Juan Market will start serving visitors again instead of just local residents starting on June 1. Restaurants will be doing takeout and Ablack said accommodations will also be open, all with proper protocols in place. He said visitors will need to follow provincial guidelines, such as physical distancing.
“We’re doing everything we can to limit the possibility of COVID infections,” Ablack said, adding that there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community at this time.
BC Parks opened the majority of provincial parks and protected areas and marine parks for day-use on May 14. On June 1, most provincial campgrounds and back-country camping will reopen.
However, visitors should check the status of the parks. For example, Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is currently closed. While it is set to reopen on June 1, that is subject to the COVID-19 situation changing.
As for national parks, the federal government will be reopening some sites with limited visitor access and services. Camping facilities are closed until at least June 21.
Ablack said the tourism season usually begins in March and April, so the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures that were put in place to limit the spread of the disease will make a “significant dent” in revenues for all businesses in Port Renfrew.
“Hopefully we can recapture some of this moving forward through 2020 but, like it is for many communities, it’s going to be a difficult year,” Ablack said.